Millions of dollars of cuts to Medicaid therapy services for children with disabilities will take effect Dec. 15.
The move comes after the Texas Supreme Court decided in September that it would not hear a lawsuit filed to block the cuts. The court didn’t explain its decision at the time.
Last year, the Legislature approved $350 million in Medicaid cuts spread over two years — $150 million in state money and $200 million in matching federal funds — to therapy providers, primarily those serving children.
Opponents to the cuts have argued that the reduced rates would cut revenue for providers by 18 percent to 28 percent and force physical, occupational and speech therapists to close their doors, interrupting vital services to an estimated 60,000 Texas children with disabilities.
“This is terrible news for Texas kids with disabilities and developmental delays and their families,” Stephanie Rubin, chief executive officer of Austin-based advocacy group Texans Care for Children, said in a statement. “Kids with autism, speech delays, Down syndrome, and other disabilities and delays rely on these therapies to learn to walk, communicate with their families, get ready for school, and meet other goals.”
Lawmakers had based the cuts last legislative session on data that showed that Texas reimbursed therapists at higher rates than other states and commercial insurance programs.
Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said that the agency will ensure that childrens’ access to care is not affected.
“The most important job we have is making sure kids have the services they need and that we are responsible with taxpayer dollars,” she said. “We will monitor the reduction of rates to ensure access to care is not impacted and that Texans around the state receive the much-needed therapies required to improve their lives.”
Although the lawsuit had stalled the cuts, managed care organizations have already passed on cuts to their therapists. The cuts that would go into effect Dec. 15 will affect fee-for-service rates. Rubin is asking Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and other lawmakers to intervene before then.
House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said Tuesday that the Medicaid cuts were a mistake and that they will be addressed in the House proposed supplemental budget.
“I don’t think it was ill-intentioned. It was not an initiative of the Texas House and I think you’ll see us address it,” Straus said.
Some Senate Republican leaders, however, have stood by the cuts.
At least three home therapy provider groups in the Houston, Panhandle and Wichita Falls areas have stopped some or all services for Medicaid patients, according to the Texas Association for Home Care & Hospice.
Another three provider groups that offered therapy for children younger than 3 years old through early childhood intervention programs have stopped programs altogether, according to Austin-based Any Baby Can, a nonprofit that provides parenting and child development resources.
“Despite categorical statements that ‘all kids in need of therapy will continue to receive care,’ we have seen that disabled children in Texas have already lost care,” said Rachel Hammon, executive director of the home care association.